Monday, December 10, 2012

Running with Yaz

Love getting emails and letters from people telling their story on birth control. This one is from Char - a woman who was guided to take Yaz to help her with her cramps while she had her period. Looking back, she probably rather have those cramps... Best of luck to you Char in your future healing process. xoxo

Hi. My name’s Char and I’m a 49 year old Mum of three and wife of 26 years. My Yaz story started about a year before I even started taking the drug, at the end of 2009. 

Picture taken from here
I’m a runner and I’d been training hard for an event while trying to cope with a lot of family stress. Running was part of my stress relief and I trained really hard but I trained beyond my ability to recover and developed over-training syndrome. I was all of a sudden unable to run far or fast without being totally exhausted. I had to take time out from running then build back up gradually. It was hard and frustrating but I came back successfully in 2010, running a respectable half marathon in September then my first marathon in October.

In January 2011 I had to go see my GP for a pap smear and mentioned my painful periods (I had to take ibuprofen every four hours for the first two days of my period or I would be vomiting with the pain). She suggested I try Yaz and I thought all my worries were over. I had no idea what was ahead of me.

Within a month my running had started to suffer. I thought it was over-training syndrome starting again. I just felt weak and unable to push myself and my heart rate was unusually high. I went to see a sports medicine doctor and he couldn’t find anything wrong. I did an exercise stress test which told me nothing except I was really fit for my age. But if I was so fit how come I couldn’t run very well any more?

I eased back on the training but still managed to run three half marathons that year – all a lot slower than my best. I still found that if I pushed myself I would feel sick and tired for days.

January 2012 came and I had another case of what seemed to be overt-raining syndrome. I went to yet another sports medicine doctor and he decided that I had post viral fatigue/chronic fatigue. I was devastated. The only treatment he could suggest was to rest and only come back to running when I was feeling better and not to push it.

So I did what I was told. I’d also developed other strange symptoms. I’d become allergic to the deodorant that I’d worn for years. I was nauseated every day especially in the morning and in the afternoon and evening I had awful bloating and an incredible amount of flatulence (You know it’s bad when your dog wakes up and leaves the room because he thinks he’s the culprit). I was having problems with blurry vision when I did close work – which was a lot of the time because I sew for a living. And I’d developed insomnia.

Picture taken from here
Then there were other obscure symptoms – tingling in my shoulders and upper back and down my leg on the left side, very low libido and dryness and anxiety. The anxiety was awful. I have a son who’s been suffering with depression and was assaulted early in 2012 then got caught and injured in a fire at his work about a month later. All of a sudden I was convinced that he was going to be hurt or killed whenever he went out. I’d go to bed and fall asleep only to wake up two hours later in a total panic and have to ring him. I’d be nauseated and sometimes vomit with the worry.

I went back to my GP to see if I could get some help and she sent me to a psychologist. I also mentioned the gastro-intestinal symptoms so she sent me to see a gastro-enterologist too. The psychologist helped me get on top of the anxiety and the gastro-enterologist diagnosed me with irritable bowel syndrome. His diet helped with a lot of the symptoms but I still knew my body wasn’t functioning right.

I’d kept running, or run-walking when I didn’t have the energy to run, once the worst of the overtraining syndrome/chronic fatigue was gone but I just felt weak. I’d lost even more speed and strength and my endurance was non-existent. And when I started to feel the fatigue coming back again I decided that I had to get to the bottom of it for once and all.

I’d felt for a while that the muscle weakness was significant. I’d even started a strength training program to try to get some power back but that had ended up with me getting sick again. One of my friends mentioned that she was on testosterone therapy to boost her levels after going through menopause and this triggered some research.

I found out that a lot of women taking the pill have a very low level of testosterone because they produce an abnormally high amount of sex hormone binding globulin which binds testosterone and makes it unavailable for the body to use. Yes, we women do produce some testosterone and it’s needed to muscle strength, energy, libido and general well-being. The levels decline as we age. Seeing as I’m already in my late 40s, chances are that my levels were lowish to start off with but were almost non-existant because of Yaz.

According to my research, Yaz and Yasmin have a different sort of synthetic progesterone, drospirenone, than the older styles of oral contraceptives and it has a particularly bad anti-androgenic effect. It just wipes out your testosterone! No wonder we feel so bad after taking it for a while.

I went back to my GP and asked her to test my testosterone levels. This time I was certain I’d found the cause of all my problems. And I was right!! My T levels were low and the levels of my sex hormone binding globulin were so high that they were just recorded as over 200 nmol/l. My GP made an appointment with a gynecologist then and there.

The gynecologist gave me a testosterone cream to boost my levels but didn’t want me to go off Yaz. I kept taking it for a few more days, all the while continuing to research and the more I read, the more I became convinced that I could not get better until I stopped taking it. I took my last tablet just over a week ago.
Already I’m starting to feel better. I had my best run in ages just yesterday. I’m starting to feel stronger again. I’ve had five good night’s sleep. The blurry vision didn’t happen even after a full day of sewing. I have had headaches – just mild ones. And I’ve had a couple of small pimples but again, nothing to worry about. But best of all I’ve got my optimism back. I finally know that I’m going to get better.

~ Charmaine 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Yasmin ON Libido GONE

I recently received an email from Iulia that I wanted to share with you all (with her permission off course). The email is slightly edited for clarity. Iulia's story describes so perfectly how a woman's mind can be totally transformed by being on the pill (or any other hormonal contraceptive). The thoughts and feelings that crawl on us without any truth to it is mesmerizing - and to think that a FDA approved birth control pill is the cause is beyond scary.

My name is Iulia and I want to start out by pointing out that I am a resident doctor in psychiatry, so you can understand that not even a doctor can figure out what he/she going through, and even less with what his/her patients are going through.

I started taking oral contraceptives in 2002 or 2003, can`t exactly remember the year (all I remember is that I was not a med student back then). I started oral contraceptives because my menstrual period was not at all regular (I got my first period when I was in 3rd or 4th grade!!!), mostly based on my low-grade obesity; once I lost about 20kg and got my weight in normal range, everything became ok: my periods were like clockwork!

My OBYG recommended taking Lo-Femenal. I took those for about 2 years and had absolutely no problems while on it - but suddenly my menstruation transformed itself from being a red-colored one, into a greyish color. Kind of spooky and I stopped them. 

In 2006 I had an abortion (was not on the pill at the time) due to a broken condom and decided to go on the pill again. I developed obsessive ideas about being pregnant. I did 2 pregnancy tests every week just to make sure even though I had no sexual contact at all. Looking back now, I know it was PTSD. After three months I was fully recovered from the mental agony of the abortion. 

Picture taken from here
In January 2007 I started Yasmin and since then, hell broke loose step by step. All of my symptoms on Yasmin started gradually, so I never thought that Yasmin might be the cause of them. First of all was my libido: I was always keen on sex and suddenly all of that just vanished. "Ok" I thought to myself, maybe it is something temporary, I'll just wait (I waited for 5 years and nothing); luckily I have a boyfriend (now fiancee and soon husband) that understands somewhat what I was and am going through.

Second to that, maybe one year after, the mood changes started. First, it was not that bad, I was a little bit more depressed, cried easily and one week before my menstruation I was very irritable. But I managed keeping all the symptoms under control. About one year after that (2008), the paraesthesias started: on my face, my arms, I had the pinky of my right hand numb for 2 weeks non-stop, when I walked my legs became numb very quickly, I had cramps in my lower legs. I blamed all that to the lack of exercise (I have always been lazy when it came to physical exercise). 

As time went on, my boyfriend became more depressed about me not wanting any sexual activity whatsoever, one time I even called him a pervert when he tried to get me aroused, so I tried to explain to him that he is not the cause of my lack of libido, it is just that I do not feel the need for sex. Not at all. I tried having intercourse again, but that only happened maybe once every two months L and only because I knew he needed it. He started telling me that he wants his old Iulia back, that made me feel really guilty, but still no sexual desire. I tried, again, to explain that something is happening to me, I didn’t know what, but that he should be patient until I get my things straightened out. I would like to point out that he loves me A LOT and he has been supportive through this nasty experience all the way. 

Next I started to become jealous on every girl that talked to him. Every time he went out I started thinking that maybe he is going out with another woman, and I was very suspicious. But it passed away rather quickly.

Picture taken from here
2010: my boyfriend proposed! But, I felt nothing. He planned a trip to Budapest (he knew how badly I wanted to go to Budapest) and proposed there, but I was like: "Ok." What girl thinks that??? One should be happy when that happens, but I was very indifferent to that. When that happened I knew something was not quite right.

January 2012: had my first panic attack (basically when you have a panic attack, there are 3 types of thoughts going through your mind: you`re going to lose control, you`re going to die or that you are going insane) and since then I developed an obsession about going crazy; being a young psychiatrist, I researched every possible mental illness I could have, but deep inside I felt that it was somewhat connected to the pill.

In February 2012: I started having obsessive ideas about having cancer; CRUEL ideas, but I managed to keep them under some sort of control. A few months later, in May 2012: I had a bad case of diarrhea, with dehydration and started having a permanent state of panic and panic attacks; I blamed it all on dehydration and rapid heartbeats. While in a panic attack, I thought that my mother-in-law was planning to poison me and that became the source of my anxiety. I knew my thoughts are not normal, so I excluded the possibility of developing a delusional disorder or psychosis, but when the anxiety kicked back in, all my thoughts came back and I was back where I started: having cancer, my mother-in-law wanting to kill me and going crazy and ending up in an asylum…
Drawing taken from here

August 2012: extreme irritability and depression started; my anxiety was on a level of 9 out of 10, but only 2 weeks before my period; after my period I was back to somewhat normal. That continued for three months and in October I felt like I had no good days anymore. I started taking natural tranquilizers which have helped me a little bit and finally decided to stop the pill!!! I took my last pill on October 26, had my period and never went back on it again. Shortly after I went to see my coordinator (he is an old psychiatry professor) and I told him about what I was going through and told me THAT HAPPENS ON THE PILL!!

He also said that most of my symptoms are related to a deficiency in Magnesium, Zinc and Vitamin B6 so I started taking magnesium and b6 complex and it all feels right again. I can`t say all of my days are good, sometimes my anxiety kicks back, but at a more bearable intensity. But I have only been off the pill for 3 weeks now but it has made a huge impact in how I feel already.

~ Iulia